Meet the EMC TeamMar 31, 2022
I continue to challenge myself in a wide variety of ways!
Jorge Uribe AIFD, EMC about creativity, design, photography and more
Interview with Jorge Uribe, EMC Teacher, by Sara Marie Andrews EMC
I was delighted when I was asked to interview Jorge Uribe AIFD, CFD, EMC, one of the very talented and creative teachers for EMC. I had heard a lot about him and couldn’t wait to learn more about him personally and what had inspired him in his journey through life so far.
Living In Colombia, he explored a range of creative arts as he grew up. He loved music of all types and played keyboards in a band; he studied graphic design and enjoyed painting, especially working with colour; and developed an interest in photography which has grown over the years and is now an integral part of his work and business.
When did you move to live in the United States of America and how long have you been working with flowers?
In March 1996, I moved to live in the USA with a family member, and it was another eight years before I was initiated into the world of flowers. Needing a focus for work, I heard of a job going in a local flower shop and started there, doing all the basic tasks such as conditioning, display and customer service. One day I was watching a basket arrangement being made and asked if I could have a go. My co-workers were quite amazed at the finished design, which I think kind of demonstrated a clear intuitive understanding of colour, shape, and form. From there, I progressed to more styles of floral designs, learning as I went but always trying to showcase my intrinsic knowledge of the elements and principles of design. Eventually, I moved onto bridal work, both the personal flowers and those for decorating the venues, with other members of staff taking care of the consultations and project management.
You have had great experience in national and international competitions, including another one coming up, when you will once again represent Colombia. What influenced and inspired you to go in this direction?
It was as I became more experienced in the shop and event work that I was introduced to the wonderful, way-out, world of competitive floristry, the first time competing against twenty-five others and undergoing a great learning curve. This gave me the type of challenge on which I can say I thrive. I need to maximise my creative interest all the time, otherwise I become bored. I need to be experimental, to try new things and ideas out, so that I continue to grow in my knowledge and expertise.
He has participated numerous times at the North East Floral Competition taking third place and People’s Choice Award in 2006, fourth place in 2007, second in 2008, fourth in 2009, first in 2010; third place at the Master’s Competition in 2012, first place Master’s Competition, Designer of the Year and People’s Choice Award 2013, first place Designer of the Year and People’s Choice Award in 2015 and People’s Choice Award 2016, first place Designer of the Year and People’s Choice Award in 2017. The year before, he took part in the Gateway to the America’s Cup 2016 in Vancouver, Canada, representing his native country of Colombia. He was very successful, winning first place in the Bridal Bouquet category, Smithers-Oasis Cup; and second place in the fashion category, Florist’s Review Cup. He again participated at the Gateway to the America’s Cup 2018 in Orlando, Florida, representing his native country of Colombia again, and competed at the FTD America’s Cup 2018 in Washington D.C. His most recent competitions were the Design Challenge International 2020 where he was placed as the first runner-up winner, and second place in the Smither’s Oasis virtual summer competition 2020.
The latest accolade for this extremely accomplished competitor is to have been asked to represent his country yet again, in the Gateway to the America’s Cup 2022 in Orlando, during the FSFA International Convention, and will shortly begin to get ideas together for each of elements of the competitive brief; once Mother’s Day and some weddings are behind him. He will extend himself even more by teaching a design workshop at the upcoming AIFD American Institute of Floral Designers ROOTS symposium 2022, a very exciting event to look forward to. Whilst Jorge and I were talking about his competition designs and the work that he puts in to prepare for them, we spoke of the problems that can occur in preparing structures and frameworks ahead of the occasion. I fully understood the difficulties experienced in filling a suitcase with a large pre-prepared structure and having to leave clothing behind!
How important was it to you personally to gain qualifications in Floristry?
It was during this period of high-level competitive events that I decided that it was important to gain qualifications in floristry, to learn more of the theory and understand the way to work more efficiently and creatively with the elements and principles of design. I began my studies for the AIFD and there I met the inspirational and very special floral educator, Hitomi Gilliam, who introduced me to EMC.
He valiantly and courageously studied for the qualifications at the same time, successfully achieving both in 2018. Following his EMC graduation, he first became a mentor for those studying for their Foundation course and, a year later, was approached to be a teacher for EMC, a position that he happily accepted.
After graduating, you became a mentor for EMC students, and have advanced to being a coach and teacher for EMC. What does this mean to you?
I think I had started acting as a mentor for others, to some degree, when I was so involved in competitions. I also think that anyone from whom you can learn becomes an indirect mentor, along with the books and magazines showing the work of designers. In more recent years, I have pushed myself to develop and allow myself to become a ‘Conscious Creative’. This is one of the reasons why I chose to study with Hitomi Gilliam, AIFD, Tomas De Bruyne and other designers whose workshops or lectures I have attended as much as possible.
Being part of the mentoring team for the European Master Certification programme has allowed me to help and guide floral design friends around the world. This gives me the amazing opportunity to continually challenge myself, avoiding the ever-present likelihood of boredom creeping into my life as I search for the correct answers to a range of questions. It's part of my way of carrying on the learning process.
What else inspires and excites you to extend your creative ability?
For me it is important to be able to appreciate colour, forms, and light, especially through my photography. I am inspired by others such as floral artists, painters, sculptors, even watching television or a film. I value the opinion of others which seems to boost my creativity and I enjoy travelling and seeing different cultures and architecture to spark my imagination. I think being creative means working for it as well, and for instance, I made a conscious decision, between competitions and during the pandemic, to challenge myself every month to complete a new style of design, work with a technique in a different manner or to try out a new technique, to avoid possible ennui and to keep the creative flow active.
Knowing that he would be mentoring and teaching EMC students from all over the world, for whom English and American English were not their first language, I asked how fluent he had been when he moved to the USA. He admitted that it had been a little difficult to start with, as he only knew a few words and simple phrases. However, showing his innate determination to learn, he would ask people to repeat words that he did not know, repeat them himself, to get the pronunciation correct and, once he had done that, that word or phrase would become a natural part of his vocabulary. All work completed for EMC is in English but, just occasionally, he will have a student who has some difficulty in fully understanding what is required of them, so he will ensure, as much as is possible, that he can get them to a point where they are comfortable with descriptions and instructions. To reinforce this point, he spoke warmly about a student from Mexico who had studied and gained qualifications in English whilst working towards her EMC. This led to a deeper conversation on the international family of the EMC, where everyone respects and cares for each other, and each member is truly valued.
Knowing that you had been involved with weddings in your initial shop, how did you feel when you progressed into working with bigger events and weddings under your own brand?
I have now been in the professional floral industry for some years, first learning the craft in flower shops, which have left me with some treasured memories of those who guided and helped me; and is now I am the owner and creative floral artist of Urban Floral LLC in Wolcott, CT.
It is designing and completing the personal flowers that give me the most enjoyment, but I am happy to do whatever the bride requires for the venue too. I also love creating for events, especially as it is usually one consultation, combined with any updates from clients to ensure the event goes smoothly; whilst weddings can be constantly changing – with different ideas for colours, designs, numbers etc, right up until the last moment.
You have a wide range of creative interests, including photography. How do you combine these interests together?
I continue to challenge myself in a wide variety of ways. I love crafting, using a wide range of media, which can also add a different dimension to my floristry; and I am now stretching myself further with designing a range of decorated footwear. I relax with playing the piano, listening to music and one of my first loves, painting; but it is photography that continues to play a major part in my life. I now include photography in with the rest of the wedding work; often completing the wedding flowers and immediately progressing onto be the photographer for the special couple, too. Although the photography has become part of my work, I have to say I am still able to enjoy it as a form of relaxation and inspiration as well.
Having achieved international renown, what do you feel is your signature style? What would people see in your creative designs that says clearly that it is your work?
I would say part of my signature style is the fact that I change it a lot. It's a constant work in progress. I enjoy learning and experimenting with manipulating materials and creating with differing techniques to obtain the best result in my designs. I guess I can say I progressed and developed from working with spirals and curves, to static lines and on to using dynamic lines, as my mood and interest often lead me in my creations. Also, my choice of colour palette is constantly transforming as I discover different ways of working with the elements in the colour wheel; to maintain and stimulate my creative ability.
It has been a great privilege for me to get to know this hugely inspirational designer a little better and I am sure that he will continue to enthuse and delight others around him, including the international students working towards their EMC. I cannot wait to see how he does in the forthcoming competition and wish him every success for that and whatever else he chooses to do in the future.
article by Sara Marie Andrews, EMC
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